World Bulletin / News Desk
South Sudanese Foreign Minister Barnaba Benjamin has asserted that his country was exerting the utmost effort to find common ground between upstream and downstream riparian states of the Nile.
"South Sudan is desirous to serve as a bridge of trust among the riparian nations," Benjamin told Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of an African Union Executive Council meeting, currently underway in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea.
In 2010, upstream states Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania signed an agreement in Entebbe in an effort to increase their annual allotments of Nile water. The following year, Burundi, too, signed onto the treaty.
The Entebbe Agreement aims to replace a colonial-era water-sharing treaty – not recognized by the upstream states – that gives Egypt and Sudan the lion's share of Nile water. Both Egypt and Sudan, for their part, have rejected the new agreement, fearing it would affect their historical share of water.
At the heart of the row stands a multimillion-dollar hydroelectric dam being built by Ethiopia on the Nile's upper reaches, which has shaken Addis Ababa's relations with Egypt.
Benjamin told AA that Juba was happy to see Ethiopia and Egypt coming together to resolve their differences through dialogue.
"[South Sudanese] President Salva Kiir will also meet with recently-elected Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to discuss bilateral cooperation, as well as regional and continental issues of mutual concern" South Sudan's top diplomat said.
The minister also spoke of his country's relations with Turkey, which, he said, Juba considered "a major development partner."
"Turkey should play a role in reconstruction efforts in South Sudan," he said. "South Sudan enjoys amicable relations and good levels of cooperation with Turkey."
Crisis at home
Speaking on domestic issues, Benjamin urged the African Union to censure groups in South Sudan that were violating a May 9 peace agreement signed in Addis Ababa between the government and rebel leader Riek Machar, whose forces have been battling the regime for months.
Benjamin alleged that Machar's forces were violating agreements brokered earlier by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an Eastern African trade bloc that is mediating crisis.
"From the realities on the ground so far, the agreement to form a transitional unity government as signed on June 10 is not likely to materialize," Benjamin said without elaborating.
"The government of South Sudan, however, will continue cooperating with IGAD," he pledged.
He also hailed the arrival of an Ethiopian peacekeeping contingent in Juba, noting that contingents from the other IGAD member states – including Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – would soon follow suit.
South Sudan slid into chaos late last year when Kiir accused a group of army leaders allied to Machar, his sacked vice president, of attempting to overthrow his regime.
Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have since been displaced in subsequent fighting, while the conflict has led to a serious humanitarian crisis for large swathes of the population.
The warring rivals signed a peace deal in May following a January cessation-of-hostilities agreement. Neither deal, however, has succeeded in curtailing hostilities.Last Mod: 24 Haziran 2014, 16:04